On 30 April the Standing Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe held a current affairs debate on the “response of the Council of Europe member States to the COVID-19 pandemic with respect to human rights, democracy and the rule of law” during its remote meeting chaired by PACE President Rik Daems (Belgium).
On behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left, chair Kox expressed condolences to the relatives and friends of all those who have passed away during this corona-crisis.
“I express my gratitude to the numerous brave health care workers and other servants in the public sector, fighting the virus and protecting our citizens,” he said.
Chair Kox paid tribute to citizens showing solidarity amongst themselves “as they realise that organised solidarity is now the only civilised way out of this horrible health and social crisis”.
Last week, United Nations Secretary General warned the world ‘that the corona-crisis is fast becoming a human rights crisis, with the risk that it could provide a pretext to adopt repressive measures for purposes unrelated to the pandemic’.
Chair Kox welcomed very much the statement of PACE President that the European Convention of Human Rights is ‘a check-list for hard times’ with clear red lines that authorities in our member States are not allowed to cross. Parliaments, judiciary and media should continue to carry out their functions in these difficult times, as these are the corner-stones of any democracy, as PACE President states.
Mr. Kox agreed with the COE Secretary General ‘that we should not let the virus, which is destroying many lives and much else, destroy our core values and free societies.’
“Therefore we have to stand up when and where we notice misuse and abuse of this crisis. For example in Hungary, Turkey and Poland,” said the chair.
“The unlimited powers given in Hungary to the government go counter the fundamental rule of democracy,” said chair Kox. ‘An indefinite and uncontrolled state of emergency cannot guarantee that the basic principles of democracy will be observed’, as the Council of Europe states.
He continued: “The exclusion from new amnesty rules in Turkey of politicians, journalists, academics, civil servants and civil society activists is a blatant violation of the European Convention of human rights. We fully support our co-rapporteurs Hammarberg and Howell call for urgent legal steps to redress the discriminatory effects of the Turkish Criminal Enforcement Law.”
“The attempts of Polish authorities to organize elections under conditions that cannot be called free and fair, harm the democratic rights of Polish citizens and limits the possibilities of politicians to participate in an elections campaign” said Kox.
UEL chair proposed the Standing Committee “to call upon the authorities in Turkey, Poland and Hungary to refrain from any further deviation from our shared values and to urgently review their recent decisions which harm the interests of their citizens and harm the goals of the Council of Europe”.
He concluded by saying: “we entered a terra incognito with great dangers for our citizens and our societies. More than ever, we should rely on our anchors, to keep our continent stable: the rule of law, human rights and democracy. Our citizens show great solidarity – let us do the same. Let us join forces to combat the corona- virus, while firmly upholding our common standards and values.”